NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway officials announced Friday that Bristol’s annual spring Sprint Cup Series weekend is being pushed back in 2015 from its traditional mid-March date, and will be held April 17-19.
Bristol track officials are pleased with the new spring date, having long lobbied NASCAR for a date conducive to more fan-friendly temperatures.
"This is a great day in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway thanks to our passionate fans," said BMS general manager and executive vice president Jerry Caldwell. "Bruton and Marcus Smith and NASCAR heard the relentless plea for a true spring race date. The fans can look forward to a 2015 landmark celebration April 17-19 in Thunder Valley."
Food City, the longtime title sponsor of the Bristol spring race, returns in its familiar role.
TURNING THE CORNER
Joey Logano has posted four consecutive finishes of sixth or better entering Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The hot streak follows a six-race stretch in which the Team Penske driver recorded two 40th-place finishes and finished in the top 10 only twice while notching nary a top-five.
So why the sudden and notable improvement in results?
"I think we fixed a lot of the mistakes we’ve been making and it really hasn’t been my team or anybody; it’s just been things that have happened," Logano said on Friday at Bristol. "In Daytona we got in a crash. We had a motor blow up at Pocono. We had a lot of different things happening, but we had a lot of speed in our car. It wasn’t like we all of a sudden found speed and it was the magic thing. We were running well then, too; we just didn’t get the finishes we needed, and then recently we’ve been able to finish at least where we deserved to finish. We haven’t won that race we talked about, but we’ve been finishing where we’ve run. We’ve been running in the top five and we’ve been finishing there. That’s important, and that just builds momentum throughout our team."
Logano, who won twice in the season’s first nine races but hasn’t since been to Victory Lane, is glad to be seemingly peaking at the right time — with the Chase for the Sprint Cup only three races away.
"Confidence heading into the Chase is very important, but I wouldn’t say we just clicked on something," said Logano, who is set to make the Chase a second consecutive year with Team Penske, the organization he joined in 2013. "I do feel like towards the middle part of this season so far we did lose a little bit of speed compared to the field, and recently I feel like we’ve picked it back up, which is a good time to do it. Hopefully, we pick up a little bit more because everyone is going to when the Chase starts."
Despite his precarious position as the 16th and final driver who would make the Chase for the Sprint Cup if the 10-race playoff commenced today, Greg Biffle claims to be more at ease than he’s been the entire season.
With three races left in the regular season, Biffle is one of four winless drivers who would make Chase based on his position in the standings.
Entering Saturday night’s race at Bristol, Biffle is nine points ahead of Kasey Kahne, who would be the first driver out of the Chase.
"We’ve felt the pressure all year because we haven’t performed to our standards at Roush Fenway — none of the teams have," said Biffle who has yet to win in 2014 but has three consecutive top 10 finishes. "We have gotten much, much better in the last six weeks. … We’ve turned the corner, so believe it or not, that’s a lot of pressure off of the team versus on the team, so we go into these next three races with a lot of confidence and actually less pressure than we’ve had all season because our performance hasn’t been where we needed to be. Now that our performance is better and we’re seeing that light at the end of the tunnel, it’s so much easier to show up to the racetrack and compete."
In the last three races, Biffle has moved from 16th to 11th in the overall standings — a major leap and one that has put him in position to reach the Chase for the third consecutive year.
"We enjoy coming and racing in the top 10 and that’s what we want to do," Biffle said. "We have a lot of confidence going into these last three races that we have the speed we need and also we have a test at Chicago lined up Monday and Tuesday, right in the middle of this, so that gives us a lot of continuity going into these last three. I think we feel pretty good."
Michael McDowell’s No. 75 Leavine Family Racing Ford has a new paint scheme this weekend featuring Thrivent Financial, a new sponsor to both the team and NASCAR.
Thrivent is non-for-profit, Fortune 500 financial services membership organization of Christians, with approximately 2.4 million members.
"Thrivent is a financial organization that really helps Christians be wise with money, so they can live more generously," McDowell said. "I added a tagline so that they could live and give more generously. I don’t know if they’re gonna let me use that or not, but it really fits in to what I’m about."
In recognition of the new sponsorship, McDowell has chosen the song "Thrive" by Christian band Casting Crowns as his entrance song for driver introductions during Bristol’s unique prerace ceremonies. In an usual role for a driver, McDowell will deliver the invocation prior to the start of the Irwin Tools Night Race.
Second-year Sprint Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who paced final practice with a lap of 131.048 mph, recently traveled to Fastenal headquarters in Winona, Minn., to unveil his new Fastenal-sponsored No. 17 Ford for 2015.
Fastenal, which is currently a primary backer of Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards, is moving its sponsorship to Stenhouse next year when Edwards leaves RFR for Joe Gibbs Racing.
"It was great to unveil our 2015 Fastenal paint scheme at Fastenal’s headquarters in front of their employees," Stenhouse said. "I got to meet a lot of individuals and their excitement has me looking forward to the 2015 season. On our tour, they showed me a wall that was designated for win banners, so our No. 17 team will have to work on that for them."
Fastenal, which has a multi-year agreement to sponsor the No. 17 team starting next season, first joined Roush Fenway in 2010 and has been a primary partner for multiple Roush Fenway teams and drivers in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.